Gift-wrapped cyber risks


Christmas presents By Richard Allen, 7Safe Education Lead | 20 December 2016

With connected toys, wearable devices, Wi-Fi enabled games, tablets, mobile phones, and now a whole spectrum of products falling into the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming some of the most popular Christmas presents, purchasers need to be aware of the security risks hidden within them.

As these devices are fitted with embedded electronics, software, and sensors that enable them to collect and exchange data, they become more vulnerable to being hacked, or turned into a threat to consumers’ privacy.

For example, hackers have previously stolen the personal details of about a million PlayStation Network (PSN) users and the personal data of 4.8 million VTech customers. While October saw easy-to-hijack ‘smart’ devices being used to attack Dyn, a major provider of internet infrastructure, which in turn disabled websites including Netflix, Facebook, and Twitter with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.

We’re not saying don’t buy such devices as Christmas presents - we don’t want to be accused of being Scrooge! - but we would just advise that the following steps are considered:

  • Check if the device you are planning to purchase, or other devices made by the same manufacturer, have suffered from previous security vulnerabilities or privacy risks by searching for the brand name and those terms. This will help you understand any previous problems and help you make a more informed purchasing decision.
  • Review the device’s privacy policy. This will indicate how serious the manufacturer is about protecting your data.
  • If possible change the configuration options of the device to make it more secure – just remember to make these changes before you connect to your home network!
  • If the chosen device needs to be connected to the internet:
    • double check your Wi-Fi connection is properly secure
    • set up the device and any associated online accounts with a unique username and password. These should be hard to guess – use passphrases instead of single words to optimise password security
    • make sure you change any default passwords.
  • Decide if all the functions or features of the device or an associated app are needed. If not, don’t use the ones that present a higher security risk.
  • Turn the gadget off completely when it’s not in use.

We hope that you and your loved ones will enjoy using your new devices.

Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year from 7Safe.

#    #    #

As these devices are fitted with embedded electronics, software, and sensors that enable them to collect and exchange data, they become more vulnerable to being hacked, or turned into a threat to consumers’ privacy.

« BACK

« Back